– “Selfie noun, informal (also selfy; plural selfies): a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”
On November 18, 2013, the Oxford English Dictionary pronounced “Selfie” the word of the year. Since then, selfies have assumed a place of privilege in the dialogue concerning how digital media affects behavior and the social norms of this age. For many, taking selfies is simply a harmless past time. As with Polaroid, it is considered little more than a method for capturing a moment in one’s life and sharing it with others. Conversely, selfies are also seen as symbols of the deteriorating moral fabric of civilization; dealing with more narcissistic qualities in those rather than that of the world around.
I believe the magnitude of social movements can be and have been affected through the utilisation of selfies. This idea is becoming more monumental through the passage of time, where we can share every second in data dressed in pixels. A billion roaming photojournalists capturing the human experience. And it is absolutely incredible. This brings me to the social revolution involving ‘Pussy Riot’, a feminist punk rock protest group. The unit stage guerrilla-like performances in peculiar locations, turning private domains into public spheres and those within an equal participant. This stimulated issues that were discussed and explored through participation and free speech (Habermas, 1962). Pussy Riot uses art and music to promote their feminist anti-authoritarian message, the themes explored through their heavy representations are feminism, LGBT rights and ultimately the resistance to the current President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, his presumed dictatorship and ties to the Russian Orthodox Church.
On the 21 February, dressed in bright dresses, tights and balaclavas to protect their anonymity, the five women associated with Pussy Riot entered the sanctuary area of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow (Gessen, 2014). This protest was eliminated in a matter of minutes and shortly after the incident, the footage was then uploaded as a two-minute clip onto YouTube. Several weeks after the cathedral representation, although their protest was peaceful, no persons were injured and property damage was non existent, Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, three of the five women that participated, were arrested and charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” (Gessen, 2014).
These events transpired and aroused the movement soon to be known as ‘FREE PUSSY RIOT’, which shared and expressed the same ideologies for LGBT and gender equality and fought for the release of the innocent women in the Soviet state. Furthermore this had led to the lessening the stratification and deterring of gender within Soviet Russia where much online support was evident through these forms of shared self-documentation. “A selfie is a photographic object that initiates the transmission of human feeling in the form of a relationship… A selfie is also a practice—a gesture that can send different messages to different individuals, communities, and audiences… signifies a sense of human agency“ (Senft & Baym, 2015). Selfies with those wearing the group’s iconic balaclavas began circulating the world which then brought a collective of people in unison to fight for the rights of the women and those oppressed in society. This ultimately developed a whole subculture which emphasised gender equality and empowerment all around the world.
Selfies were only one facet of the ‘FREE PUSSY RIOT’ movement, music, art and events were also generated though the selfie was the quickest avenue of relief for the supporters. The selfie can be perceived as a more organic option, inviting viewers, in turn, to make conspicuously communicative, gestural responses. The outcomes to which have been achieved through the wide spread of Pussy Riot, their oppression and support have combined the analysis of power, class and economics in order to further the communicated message empowering the public to take actions toward their rights in particular to the female gender. The selfie played a huge role in assisting communities whose needs and identity are not recognised in legacy media. Their principal beliefs have been used and challenged through the power of digital mechanisms and platforms to share their concerns, fighting still today against the gender stereotypes that speculate so often in the modern age.
- Gessen, M 2014, “Pussy Riot: Behind the Balaclavas.”, The Guardian, 25 Jan, date accessed: 09/03/17, < https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/24/pussy-riot-behind-balaclava >
- Hands, J 2010, ‘@ Is for Activism : Dissent, Resistance and Rebellion in a Digital Culture‘, Pluto Press, London
- Hill, S 2013, ‘Digital Revolutions: Activism in the Internet Age’ , New Internationalist Publications Ltd, Oxford
- Senft, T. and Baym, N, 2015, ‘What Does the Selfie Say? Investigating a Global’ Phenomenon. International Journal Of Communication, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp.1589-1595.